Unifor files for conciliation in CN talks

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by Emily Atkins

Unifor has requested conciliation in its contract talks with CN.

The union and railway started bargaining on October 19, 2022, with week-long sessions in Montreal November 15-18, November 29-December 2 and December 12-15, 2022.

Unifor’s national collective agreements with CN that cover the working conditions of more than 4,000 workers, expire on December 31, 2022. Two bargaining committees are involved, Council 4000 and Local 100. Local 100 represents locomotive and freight-car mechanics, electricians and apprentices. Council 4000 represents over 3,000 workers including workers at CN, Intermodal, CNTL and CN Savage Alberta Railway.

Bargaining topics have focused on work rule changes. Both committees reached agreement with CN on a number of proposals, but the union said in a statement that there are “several important proposals” that the railway does not want to bargain on.

According to the union, CN has also tabled bargaining demands that the union sees as concessionary.

Unifor tabled its common economic proposals on December 15. “Based on brief discussions relative to wage increases, CN appears to be ignoring today’s rates of inflation that are causing financial stress on many Canadian families,” Unifor said in a statement.

“We have informed the company that we will not start any bargaining on wages, benefits or other monetary items until we conclude our work rule proposals.”

Council 4000 and Local 100 planned to file the request for conciliation, on the morning of Friday, December 16.

The Federal Conciliation process is a legal requirement that both parties must adhere to prior to setting a deadline. Unifor stated it “wants to reach a negotiated settlement without a dispute, and the setting of a deadline that coincides with the best timing possible is an important element of our bargaining process.”

If conciliation is granted, a 60-day period will begin on January 1, 2023 and end on March 1. If no agreement is reached, the union could be in a legal strike position by March 22, 2023.

While this starts the process as outlined under the Canada Labour Code, the Union remains available to continue negotiations with CN. It plans to schedule additional bargaining sessions the week of January 16-20, 2023, which will be with assistance of conciliators appointed by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS).